Giving away business

April 5, 2007

I just had a not-atypical experience… I saw a review of a nice little item that I thought would be a great gift idea for a friend.

I went to the site, decided that it was what I wanted, and I clicked on the “order” button.

THe order page consisted of a phone number, and a pair of credit card icons, with instructions to call to place my order.

I closed the window, and told myself that maybe I’d go back later, although I know I won’t. If there’d been an online order page (like I expected), I’d have probably ordered it.


An order page runs 24 x 7. I can see at a glance that I’ve actually ordered the right size and color. I get email confirmations that I can track. If I get interrupted, I can come back and finish the order a few minutes later.

I don’t get any of that with a phone order, typically.

Setting up a basic shopping cart is pretty simple; if you don’t want the bother or expense of doing it on your own site, there are tons of places like Yahoo that will handle your purchases for you with a little bit of online setup.

Not doing it is just giving away business.
[tags]Online Selling, E-Commerce[/tags]

Maintaining your SSL Certificate

December 26, 2004

From the “do as I say, not as I do” department…

One certain kiss of death for an e-commerce site is to have a broken or expired SSL Certificate.

If your certificate is allowed to expire, or if for some reason it does not match the name of your domain (perhaps you’ve changed domain names), or if it is installed incorrectly, the user’s browser will put up a large dialog warning that the site may be insecure, that they should use caution, etc.

As you can imagine, warnings that a site “may be insecure” go along with asking for sensitive information about like seeing a group of people with ski masks and handguns go along with wanting to make a bank deposit.

While I was setting up the shopping cart for next week’s free teleclass*, I had used a temporary SSL certificate to test with, and I thought that I had correctly installed the permanent one when I was done. Unfortunately, at some point in time I told my web browser to ignore the warning that the certificate was wrong “until the end of the session”, and I never restarted my browser to check it, and I had left it wrong. As a result, looking at the logs, a lot of people went to the shopping cart, saw the “insecure” warning, and never logged in so that they could sign up for the free class. Duh, me.

(* Why do I use a shopping cart for a free teleclass? Because a limited number of people can be on the teleconference bridge at the same time; this way, I set the “stock level” to the number of seats, and the price to free, and it will quit taking signups when the bridge is full. So be sure to sign up early!)

While most site owners probably won’t be messing with a temporary certificate, certificates DO expire (typically annually), and other things can happen — your web host might be having a bad day, for example.

As part of your routine site maintenance (you do routinely check your site to make sure everything is operating correctly, don’t you?), it’s good practice to quit and restart your browser (or to be certain, just reboot your machine) beforehand, and be sure that the secure portions of your site are operating without errors.

What is SSL (the “little padlock”)?

December 25, 2004

SSL (“Secured Socket Layer”) is a protocol used to encrypt the communication between the user’s browser and the web server. When SSL is active, a “little padlock” appears on the user’s browser, usually in the status line at the bottom (at the top for Mac/Safari users.)

This assures the user that sensitive data (such as credit card numbers) can’t be viewed by anyone “sniffing” the network connection (which is an increasing risk as more people use wireless networking).

Common web site owner questions about SSL:

Read more

The Basics of E-Commerce

November 1, 2004

The Basics of E-CommerceVirtually everyone is familiar with the experience of making purchases online, but most small business web site owners (and even many web developers) have no idea of what is really involved. From accounting and banking considerations to the technology to make it happen, this teleclass series will teach you what you need to know, including such things as:

  • What is involved in getting a merchant bank account that will accept online purchases, and how to avoid the scams.
  • Building a relationship with a reputable payment processor.
  • Important considerations regarding fees, holding times, chargebacks and refunds.
  • Security risks and implications.
  • Getting a shopping cart installed, and how to deliver content online.

Read more

The Overland Route

June 12, 2003

From the “things that make you shake your head” department…

Online shipping logic is getting fairly good, at least among the big e-commerce sites, but sometimes it could use a firm injection of common sense.

I ordered an item Tuesday from a “large online retailer that made its reputation selling books”.  It’s a small item, less than a pound, and I selected normal ground freight.

Late yesterday I received an “it’s shipped” e-mail, so I went out today to look at the tracking info.

To my surprise, this item shipped from a location local to me—about a ten minute drive west of here, in fact.  Unfortunately, it went on ground freight from “a company that made it’s reputation for on-time air freight”.

The tracking detail itself is a hoot.  It went from 10 miles west of me, to 20 miles south of me, and from there to a sort facility another 30 miles west.  This thing is going to have an extra hundred miles on it before it gets here.

But that’s neither here nor there—the slightly irritating fact is that these people deliver ground freight in 3+ days, whether it’s across town or across the country.  A slightly smarter shipping interface might have known that from there to here is one of those occasional routes where US mail is faster, and likely cheaper—items mailed on Mon-Thurs pretty reliably arrive here the next day.

Oh well… The miracle of the dancing bear isn’t about how great a dancer the bear is — the miracle is that he dances at all…

Read more